Previously on Wentworth, Erica was having a very difficult time reconciling her angels to her demons. Like, for example, she hired a teacher to make the prisoners’ lives better, but then had to coerce Toni into lying when that teacher sold her drugs. And she tried to help rehabilitate Franky Doyle, only to be tormented by recurring lesbian fantasies of her. She was so preoccupied with her own drama that she hardly noticed the plight of the sparrow flitting around her office. That sparrow’s name is Vera Bennett, and, to my total surprise, hers is one of the most endearing stories of the season.
In the first five seconds of seeing Vera outside the prison, we learn more about her than we have in five episodes, because we see her as she sees herself. She’s putting on makeup, a little unsure if she’s doing it right, and constantly referring to a worksheet she probably worked up all her courage to go get at the mall. But even an act as simple as eyeliner throws her into the flashback penseive, to a time when adolescent Vera was trying to teach herself the mysterious ways of womanhood, only to be told by her mother that she needn’t bother, because she would always be ugly. But even as her insecurity endears her to us, we see what she can’t: that Vera is, and has always been, beautiful.
When she gets to work, she checks her reflection, seriously contemplating just wiping all her hard work off, and feeling as nervous as I did before middle school dances, when Hayley, the reporter who lives in the Wentworth parking lot, approaches her, with that lethal, mean girl one-two punch of flattery and insult. She’s like “Hey girl, omg you did something to your hair! So cute, but would you like me to help you fix it before you go inside?” And the little adolescent in Vera’s heart eagerly accepts the attention and improvements.
So Hayley must know some hair magic, and Vera walks into the officers’ lounge looking as lovely as a day in May (wait, fuck, Australian months are backwards. Is May lovely there?). She manages to catch Fletch’s attention and even proposes joining the prison volleyball league.
Linda: Are you sure that—ahem—”Adam” will let you take a break from your constant series of romantic outings?
Vera: Oh yes, well he’s really quite busy with his volunteer firefighting, and his freelance modeling and his constant touring with his rock music band that he is in.
And she doesn’t even notice the way the other guards laugh into their coffee cups. Afterwards, she gets Fletch alone.
Linda: So one thing you should know is that I got some help with my hair in the parking lot, so you can expect me to look like this from now on. Also, maybe we should hang out sometime?
Fletch: I would, but I’d really be too afraid Adam would come beat me up. I haven’t forgotten about how he won Australia’s Strongest, Yet Most Sensitive Man competition.
He walks away, leaving Vera to curse “damn you, Adam.”
For what feels like the billionth episode in a row, Bea is unable to get hold of Debbie. She appeals to Will, who reminds her that avoiding one’s parents is the Tao of the teenager, but offers to help if there’s anything he can do. Will really is the most humane of all the guards on the days when he remembers to take his meds. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that he and Bea have the beginning of Feelings for each other.
That day, Toni is finally released from the slot, and surprises all our heroines by ignoring them and hanging out with a bunch of non-main characters in the yard. Once she’s out of Franky’s protection, though, she is swiftly called for a private meeting with Jaqs.
And what does Our Lady of Perpetual Cardigan want today? Why, to inflict a little more of her signature tea-related torture, and to coerce Toni into telling her who sold her the drugs.
Later, in the cafeteria, Doreen tries to make amends with Toni for narcing on her, but Toni is having none of it—which is pretty understandable for someone who just lost her daughter, endured solitary confinement, and has now been scalded by her favorite beverage. And the only guard who notices or cares about the unfolding drama is Vera, but even she is distracted by the prospect of going clubbing with Linda.
In her tutoring session, Franky nobly sacrifices all the sexual innuendoes she’s come up with this week to beg Erica to transfer Toni back to her unit, where she can protect her.
They’re in the middle of a heated debate about law versus ethics—because Franky apparently read Erica’s fantasy diary—when Vera comes up and notices that their dynamic isn’t exactly professional. She chastises Erica about preserving the boundaries between guards and prisoners, which instantly worries Erica, because if people have noticed that she and Franky have more chemistry than the set of Bill Nye the Science Guy, then she really is in trouble.
Speaking of trouble, Vera walks into the guards’ lounge to find them all chortling over a news report filed by that stylish muckraker, Hayley. She quotes at length from an anonymous source, who utterly trashed Erica’s motives and methods. With mounting horror, Vera realizes that she was the source, and that Hayley’s hair advice came at a price.
Erica calls Vera into her office where she points the finger of blame squarely at Franky, which makes zero sense, but Erica is grasping at straws at this point. She calls Franky in, and Franky is stunned at this accusation, because it is an insult to both their relationship and Franky’s intelligence. Their actual exchange.
Franky: I’m a hell of a lot smarter than that.
Erica: After all the tutoring I gave you, I thought so.
Franky: We both know it was more than that.
Erica: That would be your ego talking.
Franky: That would be you in denial.
And then Franky accuses her of playing games just like a prisoner, and Erica insists that she call her “Miss Davidson,” and she’s just furiously trying to redraw that line between the two of them, but every time she does, Franky steps over it, and gets a little closer to her than the time before.